ARGOS — Ray Trump specializes in pizza and people. With the help of family and friends, Trump built his own wood fire oven pizza food truck ‘Firebrick Road’.
Trump was innovative and used a variety of resources to build his business, both manually and educationally.
Though Trump is in his third year on the road with the pizza bus he said, “I still have a lot to learn.”
In 2015, Trump was spending Thanksgiving with his family in Michigan when his son, Daniel, invited him to the local brewery to pick up a sweatshirt for his sister as a Christmas gift.
“There was a wood fired oven on a trailer. This man was just getting it set up and I was completely intrigued. I had never went inside the brewery. I stood outside, in Michigan, in November to watch this man fire the oven up. I decided I had to have one,” he said with a smile.
Having worked for over 30 years as a lab technician at Del Monte, Trump was no stranger to the food industry.
Trump started researching the concept as soon as he returned home with the intention of building an oven for his patio.
Though several sites offered helpful information, certain elements were left out. Trump found ‘Forno Bravo’ at www.fornobravo.com helpful.
“They didn’t care if you bought anything from them or not. They just put all the information out there.”
After Trump had everything together to build his oven some ambitious friends encouraged him to build it mobile.
“Build a food truck, they said. It will be fun, they said,” he laughed.
Trump had originally planned to repurpose an old UPS truck.
At that time, one could be purchased for under $5,000 with an average of 250,000 to 300,000 miles on them.
Due to the declining health of his parents and increasing demands on his time to remain close to home, Trump delayed the project until after they went to heaven.
“After they were gone, I felt it was time to move forward.”
The economy had changed by the time he returned to the pursuit of a vehicle.
“In the period of time when I knew where to find them, what shape they were in, and how much they would cost to the time I went to purchase one, the economy had tanked. Everyone was extending their fleet. The ones that I found were $15,000 or more and had more than 400,000 miles on them. I was thinking, ‘I am out of the food truck business before I ever started.’
“I was on my way back from Fort Wayne. I took the back road home because I was kind of feeling sorry for myself,” he confessed with a laugh. “I went through Silver Lake and passed Kerlin Bus Sales. “I wonder how many thousands of hundreds they would want for a bus? So I go over there. It was on a Monday. The first bus I looked at, the salesmen said, ‘We have to get 35 for this one’. I am thinking $35,000. I looked at another bus which was a lot shorter. The salesman said, ‘We get $2,500 for these. For only $1,000 more you get a lot more bus.”
That was the moment for Trump.
He brought a friend who had been driving trucks his whole life over to the lot to look the vehicle over on a Monday.
“I took the bus home that Friday. That’s how it became ‘the pizza bus’.”
A de-commissioned school bus in the state of Indiana cannot remain yellow.
Trump chose to paint the bus red and white as those were the two colors that he could paint in 32 degrees.
“I got the truck in November. I had a very short period of time to get it painted so that I could get it plated.”
Trump did choose to keep the bluebird design as part of his pizza bus embellishment.
He purchased the oven in March of 2017. He purchased his dough press valued at $5,000 from Craigslist for $500.
Trump, along with any food truck vendor, is required to carry a permit in every county they conduct business in.
Trump said that he worked closely with the health department as he built his truck and asked a lot of questions.
“They were very helpful. I wanted to do it right. Having a food industry background made it easier for me than it would have been for someone who knew nothing about it.”
The oven uses conduction, convection and radiant heat simultaneously which enables it to heat food fast.
Conduction is direct heat, convection is moving heat, and radiant heats like the sun.
Trump specializes in 10-inch pizzas. The most consistent options available at events are cheese, pepperoni, ham and pineapple, or mushroom, sausage and pepperoni.
Limiting the topping options makes production efficient and reduces wait time. That size provides more than what one person would typically eat by themselves, but not necessarily enough to share between two people. The size is adequate for a meal but convenient enough to carry.
It takes an average of 90 seconds to bake a 10-inch pizza in the custom designed and built wood fired oven.
Production times and how many customers are ahead of an order impact pizza-to-person serving times.
“It takes 90 seconds to make a 10-inch cheese or pepperoni pizza in my wood fired oven.”
If the pizza has more ingredients that time may increase to two minutes or two and a half minutes.
With the help of family and friends, it took him a year and half to build his truck.
Trump celebrated his grand opening in the parking lot of CS Outdoor Equipment owned by friend Ricky Miller.
He credits friend Steve Pittman of Circle P Trailers for giving him the opportunity to attend his first event.
“Steve Pittman from Circle P Trailers lined me up with the horse show. He organized the show and it was one of my first events which got the whole thing started.”
As his first season came to a close, Del Monte announced it would be closing the Plymouth plant.
“You know how they say, ‘When one door closes another opens?’ I already had another one open to walk through before the first one closed. The timing was perfect.” Trump said.
After Del Monte closed the Plymouth plant, Trump attended the Truck Drivers Institute to obtain his CDL.
“I didn’t have to pay anyone to drive the bus.”
Trump was offered a position as a recruiter where he worked until July 2018.
“I was in full swing with the bus by that time. I completed the food truck season.”
Trump drove a grain truck for a few local farmers, took a job in a factory, and worked for a period of time in the Kroger Deli while making ends meet.
He used each experience to glean wisdom and insight for his ultimate goal.
After his experience working in the Kroger deli, Trump was inspired to build a second truck ‘Panini Deli’.
Trump laughed, “I ended up at the Kroger Deli in Rochester. I call that my ‘Panini School’.”
Though Trump refers to his operation as the ‘Pizza Bus’, pizza isn’t all Trump can prepare.
He has also prepared award-winning ribs.
When he was announced as the third-place winner in a ribs competition he entered at an event, they announced, “Third place is not bad for a pizza guy!”
He has prepared ham, turkey and beef in large quantities in record times.
Trump prepared a 20-pound turkey in 2 hours. Trump has prepared 100 pounds of pulled pork, a full slab of ribeye and bread using the oven.